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1981: Yorkshire Ripper jailed for life

VIDEO : Report on the `Ripper' investigation

Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper, has been sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey.

The judge, Mr Justice Boreham, imposed a sentence of 30 years. He described Sutcliffe, a lorry driver from Bradford, as "an unusually dangerous man" and recommended he serve his full term.


"I couldn't believe it of him because he had behaved so normally at home"

Sonia Sutcliffe, Peter Sutcliffe's wife

The jury returned a majority verdict on 13 counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder between 1976 and 1981.

Most of the victims were prostitutes who were beaten about the head and their bodies mutilated.

Sutcliffe remained impassive as he listened to the verdict - crowds outside the court cheered when they heard it.

By their verdict, the jury had rejected three psychiatrists' statements that he was a paranoid schizophrenic driven to kill by a "divine mission".

Painstaking investigation

Yorkshire Police spent nearly six years trying to track down the killer and by the end of the investigation, the incident room in Leeds was crammed full of facts and information relating to the case.

A quarter of a million names were individually filed on cards and more than 30,000 statements were taken. But none of it led to his arrest.

In 1978 and 1979 a hoax tape and letters sent police on a wild goose chase to the North East looking for someone with a Geordie accent.

Police registered millions of car number plates seen in red light districts all over the north. Sutcliffe's was spotted 60 times and he was interviewed nine times before his final arrest.

In the end Sutcliffe was caught after police discovered he had put false number plates on his car and found weapons in the boot.

He soon admitted he was the Yorkshire Ripper and spent 15 hours giving the police graphic details of his crime.

His wife, Sonia, was not in court but in an interview with the Sheffield Star - which stated she had not been paid - she said she was shocked when told the news that her husband was the Ripper.

In Context
Sutcliffe was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and sent from Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight to Broadmoor secure mental hospital in Berkshire in 1983.

He has been attacked several times by inmates. In 1998, he was stabbed in both eyes by convicted murderer Ian Kay and lost the sight of one eye.

Aside from the hoax phone calls and letters, detectives working on the Ripper case were hampered by the lack of a centralised system.

Thousands of documents and other information were stored at individual police stations.

So a new computer system was developed called Holmes - Home Office Large Major Enquiries System - that gave all stations access to various databases, saving time and reducing the risk of human error.

In October 2005 John Humble from Sunderland was arrested and charged over the hoax letters and tapes.

He pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and was jailed for eight years in March 2006.


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